FCWM Forum – Canadian Conscripts at War: 1918
This edition in the series of FCWM Fora held on 24 January, featured retired RCAF Colonel Patrick Dennis who spoke on a subject that was clearly close to his heart.
Prompted by the experience of his paternal grandfather and other relatives of the period, Colonel Dennis has undertaken a detailed study of conscription in the First World War that has challenged long held myths of the conscripts (some of which were perpetuated in an article in the 1917 Supplement of the Torch).
Based on 8 years of detailed study, Colonel Patrick has produced a book detailing the background to, and introduction of conscription in Canada and refutes the many myths surrounding the process and the conscripts themselves. Reluctant Warriors – Canadian Conscripts and the Great War is probably the seminal study on this widely misunderstood subject.
Using his book as background to his excellent presentation and employing statistical evidence, he succinctly and effectively challenged the prevailing myths that the conscripts were slackers and cowards; that they made little contribution to the ultimate victory; and, that very few actually saw action.
He pointed out that during the “Hundred Days” campaign of the First World War, over 30 percent of conscripts who served in the Canadian Corps became casualties, refuting the myth that they were cowards and/or slackers. He noted that despite assertions to the contrary, conscripts in large numbers were engaged in the crucial battles of 1918 and were instrumental in the significant Canadian Corps victories.
Following his presentation he entertained a number of thought provoking questions and challenged the Canadian War Museum to review its current message on conscripts – one that maintains some of the out-dated mythology.
The fifty or so Friends and others in attendance were treated to a most interesting afternoon. To see the entire presentation visit the FCWM Face Book site for the live streaming.
Watch it on FCWM Facebook at